Who needs Gantt chart software one might ask? I argue everybody and anybody who manages projects or participates as a team member or stakeholder in projects.
The Gantt chart by far is the best visual tool for tracking the status of a project and make changes as needed. In project management discipline there are very few tools as useful and effective as a Gantt chart.
A Gantt chart displays project activities (tasks & milestones) against time. Gantt Chart was first devised by a polish engineer named Karol Adamiecki in 1890.
Later, Henry Gantt an American management consultant adapted it and made it popular. In 1990s Microsoft introduced the Gantt chart to its MS Project software.
Recently Gantt chart has evolved into an interactive chart which allows multiple views and modifies a Gantt chart in real time from multiple geographical locations.
Elements of good Gantt Chart software
Gantt chart is a visual tool, as such a good Gantt chart software needs to display the maximum amount of information about the project, without making the chart too crowded.
I have listed the data from a typical project that should be displayed on a Gantt with a brief explanation of each item
- Tasks- Obviously tasks are the most important element of any Gantt chart. The start and end date for the task should be clearly visible. The percentage completion of the task should be graphically superimposed on each task. The user should be able to change percentage completion from the Gantt.
- Container Tasks- If a task has subtasks, it is called a container task. A good Gantt chart software displays container task differently than tasks usually using different colors. In addition, the user has the choice to display the subtasks in the container or not.
- Task Title- The task title is usually placed on the left side of the Gantt chart. The title should be a link which enables the user to view the task’s detail by clicking on it.
- Task Description- The user should have access to the task’s description from the Gantt
- Task assignment- Whom the task is assigned to? Good Gantt chart software allows task assignment to more than just one person.
- Dependencies- Without dependencies, a Gantt chart is just a glorified graph. In most projects task are interdependent and some can’t start before another task has finished. There are four different types of dependencies which I have covered in the guide to task management software.
- Task Status- By viewing the Gantt it should be instantly obvious which tasks are on time, which ones are finished and which one is late. Good Gantt chart software utilizes colors to make it easier for the user to view the status of each task. For example, Red is used to identify late tasks, Green to identify tasks which are on time and so on. It also shows what percentage of a task is finished already. This is a great visual tool in determining which tasks are progressing as planned and which one is falling behind.
- Critical path- In every project, there is a sequence of tasks which together will take the longest time to finish. This is called the critical path or longest path and the project’s finish time is directly dependent on this path. Critical path method or CPM was developed in 1950 by Morgan R. Walker and James E. Kelly. For an in-depth review of critical path see here. A good Gantt chart should clearly mark the critical path or paths in the project.
How to use the Gantt Chart
The Gantt chart can be used to quickly view the status of a project or dive deeper and find the critical path and tasks which are in danger of finishing late.
Gantt is also a great reporting tool. If you have a project status meeting or daily scrum meeting when you are using Agile project management method, Gantt chart should always be present in those meetings.
Interactive Gantt chart makes it much easier to change tasks and dependencies than a task list. It also lets you change the start and end times of each task and its duration.
The benefits of Gantt Chart in project management
Academic papers list long numbers of benefits in using Gantt charts in project management. I have highlighted the ones which I feel are most important here:
- Clarity- Gantt chart helps to put everything needed in a project in one simple document. All stakeholders in the project benefit from this by understanding the status of the project in detail in real time. It helps the team to focus on areas that need the most attention.
- Coordination- Gantt chart show clearly resource overload or under load and lets the project manager to sequence tasks and events so any resource overload is resolved. It also shows task dependencies to highlight the impact of delay in one task or event on other tasks.
- Communication- Gantt chart is a great communication tool for letting everyone know the status of the project. When Gantt chart is available to all stakeholders in real time, the meeting is conducted much more productively and no time is wasted bringing everyone up to date.
- Accountability- Gantt chart lets the project manager and participants track and document the progress of the project during its entire life cycle. In addition, it helps to highlight successes and failures in the project which could be used as a learning tool. Many project managers use Gantt as a tool for tracking individual team member’s performance.
- Scheduling- Last but least, scheduling is the most important benefit of using Gantt chart in project management. It shows the flow of tasks and events in time. The critical path is highlighted and the impact of a delay in one task to the overall chance of the project finishing on time is clearly shown.
Portfolio Gantt Chart Software
One feature which has been asked most by our customers when it comes to Gantt Chart is portfolio Gantt.
The idea behind portfolio Gantt is quite simple, make a giant Gantt chart which has all the tasks in all the projects in the workspace.
It also lets the program managers add dependencies from a task in one project to task in another project.
The difficulty with portfolio Gantt is how to present an incredible amount of information to users and at the same time not overwhelm them.
We at Binfire have been working on portfolio Gantt which provides a good solution to this challenge and hope to introduce one in the near future.
For more information about Binfire’s Gantt chart software solution visit SMART Gantt Chart Software page here.
Great article, Gantt chart software is the primary tool I use managing my projects.